Dáil Éireann - Volume 451 - 28 March, 1995

Written Answers. - Ballyteigue Bay (Wexford) Aquaculture.

[264] 64. Mr. H. Byrne asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht the present position of the Office of Public Works regarding aquaculture at Ballyteigue Bay, Duncormide, County Wexford; the process of consultation engaged in prior to the area being declared a special protection area in 1990; if aquaculture, particularly oyster cultivation, was well established prior to the designation; if he will review his objections to particular applications for licences in view of the fact that the 2.13 hectares affected comprises only 0.4 per cent of the designated area; his views on the apparent contradiction between the attitude of his Department and the encouragement offered to oyster growers at Ballyteigue Bay by other State agencies such an BIM; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6300/95]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): Ballyteigue Burrow was established as a national nature reserve in 1987 under the Wildlife Act, 1976, and as a biogenetic reserve — as part of the Council of Europe's network — in 1989. Before the site was established as a nature reserve, the Department of the Marine was consulted in accordance with the provisions of the Wildlife Act and that Department had no objection to the establishment of the nature reserve. In 1990 the State owned and managed nature reserve was designated a special protection area under the European Community's birds directive. This is testimony to the international conservation importance of this site.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service — NPWS — is opposed to commercial aquaculture at Ballyteigue Nature Reserve. I am advised that such development is not compatible with its nature reserve status and would be detrimental to the proper conservation of the site. In particular, the NPWS is concerned that aquaculture operations [265] might disturb wildfowl which frequent the site and might cause damage to the delicate sand dune habitat and rare floral species contained in the reserve.

Aquaculture development was proposed at this site in 1987 and the then Wildlife Service objected on conservation grounds. No licence was issued for any development in this area. I understand however that there has been an unlicensed development in the area but the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate to allow unauthorised development in an important conservation area and then to give retrospective authorisation.

In circumstances where substantial investment has been made. I would be prepared to allow the developer to harvest the existing crop, provided he will then relocate to another area and vacate this important State-owned conservation area. I understand that the Department of the Marine will assist the developer in finding an alternative location.

With regard to the consultation process when the site was designated a special protection area. I have been advised that as Ballyteigue Burrow was State-owned land and already statutorily protected under the Wildlife Act, 1976, further consultation on the designation of the State-owned site as a special protection area was not considered necessary at the time.

I am not aware that BIM has encouraged oyster growers to locate within the nature reserve at Ballyteigue Bay but I am satisfied that it would not be appropriate for it to do so without reference to the NPWS and the Department of the Marine.